The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic-Unproven!

The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic-Unproven!

Summary of eRumor:

Wheat is toxic because farmers routinely apply Roundup to crops days before harvest to dry down or kill the plants.

The Truth:

The theory that Roundup makes wheat toxic is yet another unproven attempt to explain why more and more people are suffering from wheat intolerance.

The eRumor first appeared in a blog published by the Healthy Home Economist in November 2014. The post claims that farmers who treat crops with Roundup days before harvest are to blame for wheat intolerance, which is also referred to as celiac disease or a gluten allergy.

The post, which was quickly shared more than 560,000 times on Facebook, states:

“Wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as withered, dead wheat plants are less taxing on the farm equipment and allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest.”

It’s true that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, can be applied to wheat before harvest in a process known as “desiccation.” However, it’s not clear how often desiccation is used.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension

“Research has shown that glyphosate applied with or without ammonium sulfate may hasten dry down of the wheat crop if conditions for dry down are adverse. With a pre-harvest interval of seven days, a couple of days at the most, may be gained.”

The use of desiccation “has increased steadily,” but there’s still not enough experimental data to determine desiccation’s impact on wheat and seed quality, the Journal of Seed Science reports.

So, while desiccation is used by wheat farmers, claims that it’s the new “harvest protocol” are unproven. Those claims often cite USDA statistics that report 98 percent of spring wheat, 99 percent of durum wheat and 61 percent of winter wheat was treated with glyphosate in 2012. However, those statistics don’t tell us how often wheat was treated days before harvest — only what percentage was treated at some point in the crop’s lifecycle. reached out to the National Association of Wheat Growers for comment on the prevalence of desiccation. Future updates will be posted here.

It is true, however, that glyphosate has become the most widely used herbicide on food crops. Anywhere from 13 to 20 million acres of crops are treated with 18.7 million gallons of it each year, the EPA says.

The eRumor’s claim that glyphosate causes wheat intolerance is also proven.

A 2009 study on glyphosate’s impact on freshwater fish is regularly cited when health claims are made about glyphosate. The study found that glyphosate created “severe pathological lesions” and “microridges” in the digestive tracts of fish. That rendered them unable to “lubricate ingested food” or to “withstand trauma resulting from ingested material.”

A scientific paper published in 2013 called for additional research to determine whether or not glyphosate has the same impact on human digestive systems because its effects would be similar to celiac disease.

The researchers concluded: 

“The monitoring of glyphosate levels in food and in human urine and blood has been inadequate. The common practice of desiccation and/or ripening with glyhposate right before the harvest ensures that glyphosate residues are present in our food supply … We urge governments globally to reexamine their policy towards glyphosate and to introduce new legislation that would restrict its usage.” 

There’s no doubt that wheat intolerance is on the rise. The Mayo Clinic estimates that four times more people are affected by it today than in the 1950s. The only question is why it has been on the rise, and researchers don’t have a definitive answer.

Dr. Chella David, a geneticist and immunologist at Mayo, says it could be caused by immune systems turning on themselves because our environments are so sterile that they have nothing else to attack. He says differences in the ways wheat is processed and eaten could be a factor as well.

“Many of the processed foods we eat were not in existence 50 years ago,” David says. 

A number of theories exist to explain why more and more people can’t eat gluten, and the only clear answer is that more research is needed to find the true cause.

Posted 11/14/14